Congratulations and Thank you for looking into what could possibly change your life for the better, meditation. You might ask, ‘what is meditation’? and possibly ‘why I should try it?’ or even ‘How does it work?
These are all really great questions, one that I hope to for fill in this blog. Let’s begin!
Where did meditation come from?
It is unknown to which the exact time of meditation actually began. In the earliest records of meditation practice, archaeologists discovered evidence of meditation in a wall of art dating from approximately 5000 to 3500 BCE (Before Common Era).
The images depict people sitting in what many of us would recognize as meditation postures, figures sitting on the ground with their legs crossed, hands resting on their knees and their eyes slightly narrowed but not completely closed.
To get an over view timeline of the History of Meditation, click on the link outlined.
What is ‘Meditation’?
The word ‘meditation’ is derived from the Latin word – ‘meditatio’, verb ‘meditari’, meaning “to think, contemplate, devise, ponder”.
Meditation is a practice where the individual uses a technique, such as focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. Like any other skill, meditation does take time to learn, but oh so worth it.
Meditation may be used with the aim of reducing stress, anxiety, depression and pain, increasing peace, perception, self-concept and well-being. Meditation has been used as a means of transforming the mind, body and spirit for many centuries.
How does it affect the mind, body and emotions?
Evidence shows that your mind and body are intricately connected, and that your mind has a direct impact on your physical health. Thousands of genes have been identified that appear to be directly influenced by your subjective mental state. The relaxation response, that is obtained from meditation helps decrease any condition that’s caused or worsened by stress.
There is scientific evidence that shows an increase in activity in areas that control metabolism and heart rate in brain scans called MRI’s. In other studies with Buddhist monks, have shown that meditation produces long-lasting changes in the brain activity in areas involved in attention, working memory, learning and conscious perception.
Those who have received eight weeks of relaxation-response training reduced the number of doctor’s visits by 42 percent, prescriptions by 44 percent, use of procedures by 21 percent and emergency room visits by 46 percent within a year after the program. Now that is a positive difference!
Are there different types of meditation?
The simple answer to this, is yes, there are many types of meditation. Below is a list of each meditation and a brief description.
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is the process of being fully present with your thoughts. Being mindful means being aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not being overly reactive to what’s going on around us. Sounds great, hey?
You can actually enjoy what you are doing in each present moment. Your relationships become enriched, allowing you to enjoy better connections and fewer misunderstandings with others, because you actively listen, rather than allow your mind to wander elsewhere.
You may build greater focus, attention, and a capacity to stay calm under pressure. Imagine what you could achieve in this state!
You may feel more confident, more in control, and have greater participation in all areas of your life. To be able to experience greater self and social awareness, two mental assets that help significantly in regulating mood and emotions. You may also be able to tap in to gratitude, acceptance and less judgment of whom, what, where, when and why’s of life.
This sounds great and so achievable however it will take work, practice and personal effort. At times being more aware can actually increase personal frustration or judgment. It does not make problems go away, but it will enhance your ability to problem solve and transform your life, to turn darkness into light.
2. Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental meditation is a simple technique in which a personally assigned mantra, such as a word, sound or small phrase, is repeated in a specific way. It is practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed.
This technique will allow you to settle inward to a profound state of relaxation and rest, with the goal of achieving inner peace without concentration or effort.
3. Guided Meditation
Guided meditation, which is sometimes also called guided imagery or visualization, is a method of meditation in which you form mental pictures or situations that you find relaxing. This process is typically led by a guide or teacher, hence “guided”.
Guided visualization allows the meditator to connect with themselves on a deeper emotional and spiritual level.
The benefits include access to emotional depth, heightened spirituality and a greater ability to empathize.
Medically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, regulate blood pressure and heighten immune cell activity. Guided meditation may help manage post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and eating disorders.
Doctors also encourage guided meditation for patients undergoing major surgical operations and therapy sessions. In fact, the visualization of a successful process helps increase the chances of your body surviving major operations.
Psychologists use guided imagery and meditation as one of the techniques in cognitive-behavioral therapy.
The effects of guided visualization manifest physiologically and psychologically. For this reason those that are not in tune with their imagination, may feel frustrated or anxious when they fail to visualize and connect with that imagination or even simple sensations.
For ex: If the meditator cannot help but visualize the feeling of death, they may notice an increase in their blood pressure and heart rate.
4. Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving Kindness Meditation is the practice of directing well wishes towards others. Those who practice, recite specific words and phrases meant to evoke warmhearted feelings. It is typically practiced while sitting in a comfortable, relaxed position. After a few deep breaths, you repeat the following words slowly and steadily. “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease”.
After a period of directing this loving kindness towards one’s self, you may begin to picture a family member or friend who has helped you and repeat the mantra again, this time replace “I” with “you”. You than are able to end the meditation with universal mantra: “May all being everywhere be happy”.
5. Chakra Meditation
Chakra refers to the centers of energy and spiritual power in the body. There is said to be seven chakras, each one located at a different part of the body and each has a corresponding colour.
Chakra meditation is made up of relaxation techniques focused on bringing balance and well-being to the chakras. Some of these techniques include visually picturing each chakra in the body and its corresponding colour. Some people may choose to light incense, defuse essential oils or use crystals, which are colour coded for each chakra to help them concentrate during the meditation.
The practice of yoga dates back to ancient India. There are a wide variety of classes and styles of yoga, but each have a similarity, performing a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises, meant to promote flexibility and calm the mind.
The poses require balance, concentration and practitioners are encouraged to focus less on distractions and stay more in the moment .
I have been told many times throughout my life that meditation is a bad thing, and evil thing, where we are worshiping the darkness etc, so there have been times when I have gone long periods of time without meditating, to find myself going down hill so to speak, loosing myself, confused, depressed and less driven than I am usually.
I love so much more deeply when I meditate often. My mind is focused, I am able to handle difficult situations and people with ease and my life improves dramatically.
But I will say that it does take practice, and putting time aside just for this. For those who are energetic, driven and/or busy justifying 20 min or less at least once a day can be hard, but I do suggest that you give yourself the gift of meditation, more so before you start the day, even if that means getting up that little bit earlier.
I also suggest that if your day was rough, long and tiring, meditating at night before you go to bed, even if your exhausted will help your mind and body get a better rest than if you just switched yourself off and went to bed.
But you don’t have to believe me, try a few different meditation styles and see which one fits you at this point in your life. You can even start off at 5 minutes a day and slowly increase your meditation sessions over time.
I am here for you, to help you on this journey.
Lots of Love
Founder of divinelymindfulmeditation.com